I first came across Terry Pratchett nigh on 20 years ago. Late in the game, pretty standard for me.
I was at a low-point in every facet, nook and cranny of my life.
Realising this, a work-colleague, knowing that I had a gra for the books, suggested I try out this comic sci-fi/fantasy author, Terry Pratchett. I’d never heard of him. That weekend, I went into Hodges Figgis book shop, and asked them to recommend a good starting point. “Why not start at the beginning?” the dude smiled, and handed me “The Colour of Magic”, the first book in the Discworld series.
A literary love affair was borne, and oh my, was it a fine romance.
I devoured the crazy journey of Rincewind (hapless, hopeless, wizard), and, TwoFlower (original tourist, naive, good humoured optimist) their course decided, turn by turn, as the Gods of Dunmanifestin’ played a board game. But it was “The Luggage” that made me laugh hard – made out of “sapient pearwood – a magical, intelligent plant that is nearly extinct, impervious to magic, and only grows in a few places outside the Agatean Empire, generally on sites of very old magic.” It gobbled everything that came within reach! #VRUMP – gonner.
Next up was “The Light Fantastic” – more risible Rincewind – but, it was the third book, “Equal Rites” that was to become my turning point. “Equal Rites”, the story of a young female wizard fighting all odds to be accepted in a man’s world, introduced me to my all time favourite Pratchett characters – The Witches.
What I didn’t laugh at Nanny Ogg – “A Wizard’s Staff has a Knob on the End”,
A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end, knob on the end, knob on the end
A wizard’s staff has a knob on the ennndddd!
What he does with it is magic!
A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end
And runes run up the shaft
It’s long and proud and stiff and loud
It’s the pride of wizardcraft.
I empathised with the idiosyncratic, 100% herbal Magrat, whose hair seemed to take on a life form of it’s own, similar to my own.
But it was the Queen Bee, Granny Weatherwax that became MY character. Every time I saw the name on the page, I knew I was in for more acidic, paint-stripping, disdain. Oh how I love that woman.
“Her voice sank to a whiplash whisper.
‘First it’ll be the spokeshave. And then the sandpaper, and the auger, and the whittling knife – ‘
‘I say, steady on’ said Cutangle, his eye watering.
‘ – and what’s left I’ll stake out in the woods for the fungus and the woodlice and the beetles. It could take years.’
The carvings writhed. Most of them had moved around the back, out of Granny’s gaze.”
I followed the witches abroad, into Discworld versions of well known fairytales (Cinderella), through their battle with the “Fair Folk”, and, Magrat’s love affair with runny eyed Verence. It was a comic rollercoaster, and I adored every minute of it.
And in the midst of all this, stood the best known of all of TP’s characters – DEATH.
Curry lovin’, beer swillin’, Foreign Legion volunteering, Binky riding – DEATH. Grandad, Landscape Gardener, Santa-Claus of Sorts, Scythe swinging DEATH. Try as he might, DEATH just never got the concept of humanity or human emotion (or did he?):-
‘HO. HO. HO. YES INDEED, HELLO, SMALL CHILD CALLED VERRUCA LUMPY, WHAT A LOVELY NAME, AGED SEVEN, I BELIEVE? GOOD. YES, I KNOW IT DID. ALL OVER THE NICE CLEAR FLOOR, YES. THEY DO, YOU KNOW. THAT’S ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT REAL PIGS. HERE WE ARE, DON’T MENTION IT. HAPPY HOGSWATCH AND BE GOOD. I WILL KNOW YOU’RE GOOD OR BAD YOU KNOW. HO. HO. HO.’
(Death as Hogfather – aka the Discworld version of Santa!).
On Thursday 12th March, 2015, DEATH came for Terry. He probably had a curry en route, couple of beers in the Mended Drum, hopped on Binky, and had a smoke out the back, before walking through the wall, a blue light flaring in his sockets, a wry grin on his face, and, whipping out that scythe….
***”AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
(***Quotes courtesy of Rhianna Pratchett’s Twitter Feed).